Posted Apr 21, 2016 by Seamus Kirst on Forbes. Photograph by AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Earlier this week, Beyoncé used two Instagram teaser posts to announce that she’ll be premiering ‘Lemonade’ to the world on April 23rd on HBO. Beyoncé hasn’t confirmed exactly what ‘Lemonade’ is – her Instagram posts were frankly two artsy, mysterious videos with her voice saying equally vague things like, ‘What am I gonna do, love? What am I gonna do?’ and, ‘The past and the present merge to meet us here’– but, a source has leaked, that ‘Lemonade’ is allegedly a lengthy concept video.
This is far from Beyoncé’s first rodeo when it comes to surprise marketing. In fact, at this point, she’s really an expert. With an estimated $250 million net worth, and having earned $54.5 million from June 2014 to June 2015 alone, other artists should probably pay attention and start jotting down some notes.
In December, 2013, Beyoncé sold 617,000 copies of her self-titled album through the U.S. iTunes store within three days of its unexpected release. By the time three weeks had passed, she’d sold over 1.3 million copies.
Beyoncé is far from being the only musical artist who has utilized this type of surprise album. In the age of the Internet – where albums often leak and are popularly consumed before even being released– it makes sense that performers would want to avoid having their music being made public and illegally consumed before it’s even available for purchase.
Beyond avoiding leaks, Adele explained in an interview with TIME magazine, why the traditional music marketing methods now equate to overexposure in a market where releasing one song allows it to instantly become accessible for unlimited listening.
“I’m not throwing shade at anybody. But when you have a six-month build up, don’t expect me to be there the day your album comes out, because I’m bored,” she said toTIME. “It doesn’t matter how amazing it is. You put seven songs out. I’ve heard the album. I’ve heard everything you want to say about it. I’ve heard it all over radio. Don’t expect me to not lose interest before it’s even happened.”
In October 2015, Adele surprise debuted her first single ‘Hello’ from her album, 25, during a commercial break for The X Factor UK. She announced that the entire 25 album would be released the following month.
In November, when 25 was released, Adele sold 3.38 million copies in the U.S. during the first week, according to Nielsen Music. This marked the largest single sales week for an album Nielsen had ever measured since they started tracking music purchases in 1991.
In addition to Beyoncé and Adele, other artists including Kendrick Lamar, Future, Drake, D’Angelo and Prince have all used surprise tactics to release their albums.
In early February 2016, Future landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with his surprise album, Evol. The album was exclusively sold through Apple Music and iTunes starting on Feb. 5. In the first week, Nielsen Music tracked 134,000 equivalent albumsbeing sold, with 100,000 of those being pure album sales.